Tag Archives for " Brick and mortar "

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Frictionless Shopping: Futuristic Retail

Frictionless Shopping: Futuristic Retail

Customers today want the gap between online browsing and in-store purchasing to bridged in a seamless experience. Potential inhibitors of the customer shopping journey include inconveniences such as having their preferred choice unavailable in-store or losing items in an online basket. It is a disappointing experience when customers face inconvenience whether real or perceived when shopping in-store or online.  It is critical for brick and mortars to make necessary adjustments to stay ahead in the competitive arena of retail. A frictionless shopping experience is one that seamlessly incorporates checkout and payment options, real-time customer service and, customer delivery preferences. This is quickly turning out to be a fundamental aspect of any retailer’s business. Offering frictionless shopping is a great way to connect with new customers.

What Defines Frictionless Shopping?

Frictionless shopping is the idea to connect customers and retailers so that customers instantly find the products they need and then buy it without any interruptions. Frictionless shopping ensures that the customers are in control. The concept has evolved with technology and now customers expect these experiences to be made available through their smartphones. Frictionless shopping also requires the elimination of retail interactions that negatively impact customer experience, such as, having to wait for paper receipts to print or fetching loyalty cards to get a discount.

The implications for you include the way you package and market goods, down to the ease with which your customers can complete the payment and checkout process. You must incorporate customer-friendly ordering options, as well as click and collect services. If you have a brick and mortar store, you must find a way to enable mobile payment options and optimize inventory systems to attract customers into the store.

Why is Frictionless Shopping Important?

In the digital age, customers are spoiled for choice and habituated to getting what they want delivered instantly. Customers prefer not to have to stand in long queues at checkout counters or wait long for their online orders to be delivered. Information is also always at their fingertips and they can easily find what they need/want with one quick search on their smartphones. 

A good example of a great frictionless shopping experience is Amazon Go. The cashierless stores are at 4 locations in the US. Amazon Go uses hundred of cameras and lots of data to allow customers to simply walk in, pick up whatever they need and walk out without any checkout queues. Amazon Go has a smartphone app that automatically adds items to a virtual shopping basket while customers select them. The customers are charged to their Amazon account for the products they walk out with as they leave the store.

Impact of Frictionless Shopping on Retailers

If you want to stay ahead of the game, then you must embrace technology and data to provide a frictionless shopping experience from start to finish. From product innovation to improving customer experiences in-store, data and technology play a big role in helping you understand how customers respond to display and packaging. It is important to reorder inventory based on demand, keep shelves stocked and ensure efficient distribution.

For example, push notifications sent on smartphones to customers while they are shopping could alert them to offers and provide helpful information to smooth their shopping journey. An essential element in frictionless shopping is an easy mobile checkout process. Mobile friendly, simple forms and single payment option will get more customers. It is also crucial to allow customers to easily and quickly find help through FAQs, direct calling or live chat.

We have seen some tips for implementing the concept of frictionless shopping whether offline or online in your business.  In this busy world, customers are drawn to retailers who understand the value of their time. Stay ahead in the competition by giving your customers a smooth and frictionless shopping experience.

 

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brick and mortar store front

The Path to Upgrading Your Brick and Mortar Business

The Path to Upgrading Your Brick and Mortar Business 

Brick and mortar retail is often overlooked in the age of digital transformation. Many believed that the digital age would spell doom for physical stores. The “retail apocalypse” predicted the end of the brick and mortar retail model. However, this is not turning out to be the case, and a vast majority of shoppers still want to engage with retailers in a brick and mortar setting. A physical store gives customers the opportunity to get a feel for the products they are buying. It also presents retailers with a chance to provide customers with an unforgettable experience. Customers today want personalized shopping experiences.

Having a brick and mortar presence is also a good way to attract new customers. This is illustrated by the wave of innovative and trendy new retailers like Bonobos and Everlane who started off as online retailers but are looking to expand to physical stores across the country.

Omnichannel Experience

It is a mistake to believe that retailers are either only online or offline. Successful retailers today are operating across multiple different channels. The ability to deliver a highly engaging experience across all channels is the holy grail for retail success in the digital era. Brick and mortar form the cornerstone of this sophisticated omnichannel model of retail. However, physical stores must be able to provide customers with a multidimensional experience that touches all of their senses and enables them to connect with brands.

This retail experience begins the moment a customer enters the store for the first time. Customers intuitively react to the lighting, cleanliness, organization and flow of the store. Getting the physical design of the store right is crucial. So is the way products are arranged and displayed. Retailers today are also experimenting with technologies such as Augmented Reality(AR) and Virtual Reality(VR) to provide unforgettable in-store experiences to their customers.

Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning

Artificial Intelligence(AI) and Machine Learning(ML) may sound like futuristic technologies, however, the reality is that these technologies are being widely applied in retail too. For example, AI and ML are already helping retailers make smarter choices when it comes to preventative maintenance. AI systems are used for product tagging and management, enabling retailers and employees to keep track of important products through a network of sensors. These technologies have changed the way retailers operate their business by enabling them to be able to understand what’s going on at all of their stores from an operations perspective.

There is no doubt that the brick and mortar retail model is here to stay. However, things are changing and the status quo is being disrupted. But this is only for the better. The importance of technology remains crucial for the success of any brick and mortar store. That is why you must understand and fully embrace the new technologies that can bring your business to a brighter future.

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street view of a store front in LA

Transforming the Retail Customer Experience with In-store Analytics

Transforming the Retail Customer Experience with In-store Analytics

While online retailers have the advantage of tracking cookies and web analytics tools to calibrate different aspects of an online shopping experience, brick and mortar retailers aren’t as lucky. They have had to depend on much erratic customer insights.
However,in today’s date, even physical retailers are required to hold up to some very high expectations in shopping experiences.

In fact, in order for physical stores to remain relevant, they have to focus on improving the quality of the experience they deliver. This has led to the creation of entire businesses in retail experience innovation.

One of the ways a brick and mortar retailer can provide a quality experience is through the employment of in-store analytics that provides insights into the behavior of the customers and uses that information to engage with their customers as they shop. The use of in-store analytics has revolutionized how retailers understand their customers and how they communicate with them.

How will in-store analytics build up communication between shoppers and retailers?

In order to answer that question it is important to know how In-store analytics works.
For example, when a furniture store to offers free Wi-Fi, it may seem a bit strange.
Actually when the Wi-Fi is enabled on one’s phone, the device sends out a connection request every few seconds on every Wi-Fi channel available. It updates the list of the available networks after listening for a fraction of a second for a response to come back,

Interestingly, when a device probes the Wi-Fi spectrum, it broadcasts its unique MAC address to any device that’s listening. So, as one walks around in that furniture store, every Wi-Fi probe then acts as a beacon for the location. With multiple Wi-Fi access points available inside a single store, it becomes possible to considerably precisely locate each address. As far as the owner of the device is concerned, this happens passively without having to actually join a Wi-Fi network.



Although nothing about a device’s owner is being shared, the retailer can build a picture of what individuals do as they walk around a store. Such as, the number of customers who went to the first floor, the time people tend to spend in a particular region, the waiting period of customers before they come back to the shop.

This aids in understanding the broader shopping habits and interceding with informed in-store customer communication. Instead of having communication with customer transpire at the convenience of the retailer, it can happen at the customer’s convenience. 

Sending an SMS to inform of a sale as an effective marketing tactic. Sending emails every month or even good old direct post may increase customer movement towards a local store. However, a more customer-centric communication of a timely WhatsApp message offering assistance when the furniture store operator gets to know that the customer has spent over 20 minutes in the dining table department.

MAC address tracking to deliver a more personalised Customer Experience


Anonymously tracking a MAC address results in a more personalized customer communication and in understanding individual behavior in the retail experience. As the data increases, the MAC addressing question ceases to just be a randomly generated number and instead represents the behaviors of a real person. At this stage, there’s nothing to identify the individual who owns the phone but it’s possible to build a picture of who they are.

Whether gathered in multiple locations or over a longer time period in just one location, as the data builds it becomes useful in crafting more personalized communication, which can help increase sales and enhance the customer experience.

Relying on anonymized data can deliver only so much, though. And that brings us back to why the furniture store offers free Wi-Fi. As soon as someone signs up for that Wi-Fi, the store can associate the MAC address with whatever data they capture in the sign-up process. At the very least, that’s likely to be a name, email address and cellphone number. Again, that person never has to use the Wi-Fi: as long as they keep the same device, their MAC address and identity are linked.

Other retailers might not rely just on free Wi-Fi. They might have a loyalty or coupon-based mobile app that requires users to provide some personal data. Depending on the phone’s operating system, that app might be able to access the MAC address itself and make the connection for the retailer. Either way, retailers can incentivize shoppers to make their MAC address personally identifiable. And when that happens, communication can truly become personalized.

Respecting the shopper’s personal data

Either through inertia or without realizing it, most people publicly surfing the web are constantly being tracked. Sure, there are some loud voices of complaint but the vast majority of people accept it or don’t care.

As the company behind smart recycling bin advertisements in London and Nordstrom in the US discovered, people are less keen to have their physical location tracked. Even if it’s only an anonymized MAC address, such tracking could feel intrusive.

A value exchange for a richer retail experience


The answer, perhaps, is to take a tip from the loyalty schemes of large retailers: provide a genuine benefit to customers in exchange for gathering valuable data on their habits. Just as loyalty schemes such as Air Miles and Tesco Clubcard offer coupons, cashback, and exclusive store events, retailers can build similar value into retail location tracking and analysis. Rather than silently track customers, they can volitionally opt in to a mobile-phone enabled rewards program when they enter the store-a loyalty scheme for the 21st century.

Location tracking has the potential to transform how retailers communicate with their customers. It will provide the insight to know precisely when to engage and when to leave someone alone. However, it will work only if customers can see a tangible benefit to giving up some of their privacy.

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bird's eye view of a supermarket with shoppers looking at fruits and vegetables

Automation and AI in Retail: How are stores coping with the change?

AI & Automation in Retail: How are stores coping with the change?

The retail shopping experience is constantly evolving. The stores of the future may look completely different than the ones that customers visit these days. A large contribution to what would make them different would be the integration of AI and automation. Almost every retailer in the world is competing against e-commerce giants like Amazon, and with the introduction of its physical store, Amazon Go, which uses cameras and sensors to charge customers, there is more competition. Tech companies are seeking to roll out powerful automation tools for retailers, but will these tools be able to entice customers?

Automation is a preferred choice

The benefits of automation have already been experienced on a smaller scale with supermarkets offering self-checkout kiosks. While retailers invest considerably in these innovations, some of the benefits can be decreased reliance on the staff, and ensuring that the customers complete their shopping journey seamlessly. Furthermore, a study also concluded that a majority of US consumers believe that self-checkout kiosks enhance the store experience.

The checkout process can be made faster and simpler using a smartphone, and customers may no longer need to stand in long queues. They can use apps that are designed to read barcodes of  products and automatically generate the bill for the customer within the app itself.

It is important to note, however, that these innovations do not replace the human effort and it simply supports the staff and makes the logistics process more efficient.

robot standing near luggage bags

Going beyond checkout

Automating the checkout is only one application of automation. Some other applications can be bots that can automatically stock shelves or smart devices that can provide signals for products going out of stock or nearing expiration dates. These applications can help store managers to efficiently manage the inventory with the right data. 

Automation as Customer Service

Retailers are increasingly using Robotic Process Automation to make transactions and providing answers for simple customer queries faster. This ensures that the customers are provided with the help that they need, without the need for engaging the store staff. The US retailer Lowe, as an excellent example of application of this idea, introduced the LoweBot - an in-store robot that converses with customers and helps them locate items in the store using real time inventory tracking. Furthermore, it acts as an alternative source of information for customers who have simple questions, freeing up employees to attend to customers who need more guidance with their queries.

Automation and Pick-Up Trends Merge

Many retailers, such as Target, provide customers with the option of placing an order online and having it picked up at a nearby store without having to get out of the car, much like Drive-Thru at fast food chains.

This facility in its current model, however, requires human involvement. . As soon as the store receives an order, a staff member is required to bag the order, while another may be required to take them to the customer’s vehicle. While this is a convenient option for the customer, it creates  labor inefficiency for the store. Automating these processes would free up the staff allowing them to help the customers in-store and streamline the pickup routine for customers.

selective focus photography of group of people selecting vinyl record sleeves

Despite the stiff competition online, in-store shopping will survive, however, it needs to change to meet changing customer needs and preferences. Retailers must realize the importance of AI and automation and capitalize on it to stay ahead. The goal should be not to out-do e-commerce giants like Amazon but to provide an involved face-to-face customer service in a welcoming environment.

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